Things to do in Paris – Visit the Army Museum and the Tomb of Napoleon

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Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and Altar in Dome Chapel Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

One of the most formidable figures in French history is undoubtedly the dynamic military leader and self-proclaimed Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte. Immortalized in history and in pop culture for his commanding nature and his military defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, his remains lie in the heart of Paris, beneath Le Dôme des Invalides.

Dome Chapel Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

Also known as the Dome Chapel, le Dome des Invalides, was constructed during the reign of King Louis XIV as a Royal Chapel for the King. Converted into a military pantheon over a century later by Napoleon I,

Tomb of French Marshal Ferdinand Foch Dome Chapel Les Invalides Paris France

the Dome Chapel holds the remains of distinguished military leaders and members of the House of Bonaparte, including Napoleon’s brothers Joseph and Jérôme Bonaparte, and his son Napoleon II.

Tomb of Napoleon Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

But it’s the Tomb of Napoleon I, an impressive sarcophagus sculpted from red quartzite resting on a base of green granite, that stands in the place of honor at the center of the rotunda. It’s said that the tomb contains the emperor’s ashes, yet other sources claim that it contains his well-preserved body, exhumed from his original burial place on the island of St. Helena where he died in exile. And still others say that the tomb consists of 6 different coffins, some made of wood, others of lead, nestled one inside of the other. We’re not sure what exactly it contains, but we still think that in certain light, the smooth scrolled stone of the tomb looks like a shiny bar of milk chocolate.

Main Courtyard and Artillery Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

As part of the Hôtel National des Invalides, a veteran’s home and hospital established by King Louis XIV, the Dome Chapel and Tomb of Napoleon are administered by the Musée de l’Armée Invalides, an Army Museum dedicated to French Military history.

 Main Courtyard Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

The ‘museum spaces’ open to visitors include the Charles de Gaulle Monument, the Main Courtyard and Artillery Collection, the Old Department – Old Armor and Weapons, 13th – 17th century, Modern Department – from Louis XIV to Napoleon III, 1643 – 1870,

Artillery Cannons and Shell Contemporary Exhibit Two World Wars Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

Tank Turret Contemporary Exhibit Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

and the Contemporary Department – the Two World Wars 1871-1945.

Guns and Weapons Display Contemporary Exhibit Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

Artillery Display Contemporary Exhibit Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

Weapons Display Contemporary Exhibit Musée de l’Armée Invalides Paris France

We noted that there are enough guns in the museum to make even the staunchest NRA member happy.

Though Napoleon’s tomb is quite an impressive monument, this is one museum you may wish to skip, especially if this is your first visit to Paris. However, if you have the time, are greatly inclined to see the army museum and/or Napoleon’s tomb, AND you have the Paris Museum Pass, then this might be worth a stop.

Les Invalides Entrance Across from Grand and Petit Palais Paris France

Getting There:

The Tomb of Napoleon and the Army Museum are located at 129 Rue de Grenelle directly across the river from the Grand and Petit Palais. Get there with the Métro: Line 8 – La Tour Maubourg or Line 13 – Varenne. Note: There are other metro stops nearby, but the two mentioned here are closer to the museum entrances. There are two entrances to the museum, one at Esplanade des Invalides facing rue de Grenelle and one at Place Vauban closest to the Dome.

Ticket Info:
Adult Admission = 9.50€; includes Dome Chapel and Tomb of Napoleon I + Army
Museum’s permanent collections + Charles de Gaulle Monument + Museum of Relief Maps + Museum of the Order of the Liberation

FREE with the Paris Museum Pass

Travel Tip:

The Army Museum complex is expansive and if you intend to see it in its entirety it will take up a lot of your time.

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